Naxalbari, a village in West Bengal where the Naxalism movement that cost millions of lives and a significant chunk of state revenue and resources started, has changed its colour to saffron and is rallying behind BJP for the 2021 assembly election. The people of the village and constituency dumped Maoism (after witnessing the ugly form it can take) and Communism decades ago when they started voting for Congress.
In the last assembly election, Sankar Malakar of Congress defeated Amar Sinha of Trinamool Congress, and BJP’s candidate, Anandamoi Barman, ended at third place with 21.3 per cent votes in the Matigara-Naxalbari constituency. Communism has lost the currency in the village as well as the constituency for a long and the vote percentage for the Communists had not reached even in double digits.
Almost five decades ago, in 1967, 11 people including two kids were killed in police firing in Naxalbari village. And, this led to the Naxalbari movement under the leadership of Kanu Sanyal, a Darjeeling-born, University of Calcutta educated clerk who left his job to start the Maoist movement in West Bengal.
“For us, 24 May 1967 is the Naxalbari Day. That day, the police were informed that some leaders involved with the movement were hiding in Boro Jhorojote village. There were no leaders there, but only a huge gathering of peasants and tea garden workers. One police officer was killed there. Since the peasants understood and accepted our politics and took up arms on their own, we celebrate that day as a victory of our political ideas. Other groups observe 25 May as Martyrs’ Day when 11 activists were killed,” said Sanyal in an interview with Times of India.
Sanyal got training from China and was helped by the Chinese Maoists financially. He started a movement from the Naxalbari village, which still haunts India in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
However, after the armed movement and violence of decades, the villagers came to realise that armed insurgency has only brought poverty and death to their families, not the so-called ‘golden era of Communist rule’ that the leaders promised.
In the last few decades, RSS has increased its activities manifolds in the Northern and Western regions of West Bengal. Regular RSS Shakhas are held in the villages and the Sangh has even opened Vidyamandir schools in their area. Thanks to the constructive approach of RSS, the people in the Siliguri district started accepting the mainstream politics and the Hindutava ideology is also being embraced.
Today, the Left has been obliterated and they are not even seen as a political option by the people of Naxalbari. According to Shanti Munda, among the close aids of Kanu Sanyal (who died a decade ago) who has turned 80 now, the left has no ideology today and this is the reason behind their obliteration.
“The Left is responsible. Now they have no ideology. They think money is everything. Our entire generation had fought for this land. Ironically, today our next generation is either compelled or lured to sell their plot of land. Even I have sold three katthas of my land to construct my house,” said Munda.
Dipu Haldar, the general secretary of the Kanu Sanyal organisation credits RSS’s consistent groundwork behind the acceptance of BJP and Hindutva. “Red to saffron did not happen in one day. It is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that put a lot of hard work into this area. The BJP could not have done this alone,” said Haldar.
He also blames the misrule by Mamata Banerjee for the rise of BJP in the Communist strongholds. “For this situation, Mamata Banerjee is also responsible. What the Left Party did in 34 years, the TMC crossed everything in only 10 years. And, now she is crying,” he said.
The acceptance of RSS and BJP has increased manifolds in the last few decades. Regions like Naxalbari which are known for Communist and Socialist revolutions are always the first ones to realise that the ideal world and the mirage, that the Communists claim to bring does not exist.
Take the Singur seat of the West Bengal legislative assembly. A decade ago, the people of the constituency opposed the Tata Nano plant tooth and nail and capitalising on the sentiment, Mamata Banerjee, who placed herself “left of left,” came to power. But today, the people of the area want jobs and industry.
Swapon Mali, a farmer from the same village said, “I am not going to recount old memories, but what have we got in return? Some money, but how many days that compensation will last?”
He added, “I want to tell you land is necessary but more necessary is jobs. Youths are roaming without jobs, there was hope when Tata came. Whoever comes after the election, must focus on (establishing) industries.”
Today the residents of Singur, Nandigram and Naxalbari want jobs, industries, and development, which is why they are rooting for BJP.
Singur and Nandigram – Mamata Banerjee’s two beloved constituencies, seemingly made her what she is today – the feisty rebel, the street politician with ground connection with the people of Bengal and the obliterator of Left in Bengal. Mamata Banerjee can be described in many ways. However, this time around with the rise of the BJP, she is set to lose both the regions.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had a lead of 10,500 votes over the TMC in the Singur assembly segment. Singur falls under the Hooghly Parliamentary Constituency where TMC’s Dr Ratna De (NAG) had been defeated by BJP’s state Mahila Morcha president Locket Chatterjee.
Similarly, BJP also won the Darjeeling constituency, under which the Naxalbari assembly constituency falls. Moreover, given the situation in Nandigram, Mamata Banerjee is set to lose the constituency to her former protege, Suvendu Adhikari.
So, the constituencies that paved the way for power to Communist parties and TMC are now rooting for the BJP. The Naxals, who have now spread into the inner parts of the country like Chattishgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, also need to learn a lesson from the Naxalbari constituency and come to the mainstream.